THE WRITERS POST

(ISSN: 1527-5467)
the magazine of Literature & Literature-in-translation.

PREMIER ISSUE

VOLUME 1 NUMBER 1

JUL 1999

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LUAN HOAN
________________

THE COMPASS OF COMMAND TRANSFERRED TO A FRIEND

COMMAND OF A CEMETERY BILLET PASSED TO A FRIEND

(in memory of Lt.Nguyen Nam)

Translated by DO QUY TOAN

              My reprieve from outpost duty at Duc Hai
              left you, friend, to fill my boots and lead patrols
              through no-man's land-graveyard of decapitated,
              grass-high trees-that surrounds this clutch of thatched huts,

              No tree tall enough to tie a hammock to,
              you spread your sack of driftwood bones-their ache
              floating down the river of your spine-beneath
              her eaves, the bosom of our shared village whore

              I heard how badly that day went: sunlight
              stacked in halos of heat like purgatory,
              South China Sea wind whipcracking across
              your face, coating it in a crusty salt mask.

              And then, crackling at the edges of your sleep,
              our carbines, their AK-47's
              startled you, eyes filling with baby blue sky
              that stared down like a painless future we crave.

              Back from leave, I turn my grief on Duc Hai
              like a bad cousin; put a pistol round
              through the water jug that bleeds into the dirt,
              then dries, a passing shadow-yours it seems

              Wailing across the chasm of my absence --
              my two-week'leave-, sky torn by shads of light,
              I divide my gift of dried squid-meant for you-
              with our platoon, but this wine is for you and I.

              Drink, little brother: dull the guillotine
              blade of loss. To bring you joy, I sip my guilt
              and chew the tough squid. But look...in this mist
              of tears I taste the blood of my own finger.

              Nam, my friend, Duc Hai seems more deserted
              now without you, I sit by the calm sea
              that no longer gives me peace. When we move
              to Duc Phung outpost, who will know death next ?

 Translated by DO QUY TOAN
( The Ky 21 Magazine, )

 

THE WRITERS POST (ISSN: 1527-5467),
the magazine of Literature & Literature-in-translation.

 

Copyright 1999 The Writers Post.

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The Writers Post Jul. 1999
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